Leaving Chapel Hill
I left the bus station with a deep breath. This was the first time in
my life I've traveled so far alone and with no responsibility. It was
a deep cool breath full of smiles and freedom. I drove on down I-95 through
South Carolina into the night, stopping once or twice to look for a movie
theater. I wanted to see "Lord of the Rings" by myself and laugh
at my liberation. I read all of those books when I was young and it was
my own first and true escape. But that night I was to drive straight through
until Savanna, GA where I recognized a pungent odor that I had smelled
the last time I toured the southeast. Someone needs to tell me what that
smell is. My guess is the swamps or factories, and near that odor I stopped
at a cafe and had the famous southern "sweet tea", which is
actually iced tea without the lemon. But they're proud of it and I was
glad to enjoy it for them. A giant Georgian truck stop made for a good
spot to spend the night. So I cleared out the middle seat of the van and
I awoke to my first real taste of warm weather in months. The sun relaxed
my thoughts and I took out time to read books in the afternoon. After
a good shower at the truck stop I had a bite to eat in their diner and
watched the slunk shouldered workers move slowly through the monotony
of their duties. Sometimes acceptance of your fate is very sad and I felt
more lucky than before.
Back on the road. I smiled from Savannah to Boca Raton where I met up
with my friend Merin. It was after dark. We had time to kill before meeting
more friends so she took me to the beach. Of course the beach doesn't
impress a Florida native, but for me the ocean just brings out every good
memory of summer vacations with family. We stood on a boardwalk overlook
and spied a family of Raccoons living well on trash. Then we made our
way to Alex's house where I witnessed my first "Halo" party
(which I'll explain later). Alex works with Undecided records and was
the first person to offer me a record deal a few weeks earlier. That was
the point where I began to think this Jupiter Sunrise thing might actually
go somewhere. I've tried hard not to get my hopes to high, but...so Merin
and I watched a while and eventually joined in. Here's the scoop. A "Halo"
party is when dorky guys bring over their X-Boxes and TV's and we link
them all together. You can combine up to 4 X-Boxes and 4 TV's for a massive
16 player game of "Halo", the space marine combat game. Then
you fight to the death for too many hours until your eyes are bloody and
your sugar level is unbalanced. It's heaven. A nerdfest of enormous magnitude.
Some of the guilty participants included members of Further Seems Forever,
Glasseater, Undecided Records, etc. We had such parties several times
over the two weeks that I stayed with Alex.
The apartment was a common Florida condo complete with pool, weight room,
and security gate. There were fascinating palm trees and other normal
stuff which I noticed to the amusement of the locals. Alex shared the
apartment with his roommates"Incredible Weirdo", "Captain
Extreme", and "XWesX". Nicknames are popular in the south
Florida indie scene, and I rarely learned any real names. It was funny
to hear someone actually reply to "hey Weirdo" with complete
recognition. And it was funnier to watch "Incredible Weirdo"
sleep on his floor in pants, no shirt, with no blanket and his bed frame
propped up in the corner of his room full of old electronic devices. Some
nicknames are easy to assign.
For the next two weeks Alex dragged my butt around Florida to meet his
friends and see some shows. We went to a Glasseater concert first and
I helped Alex set up his CD distro on some pool tables. The hard-core
scene in Florida is passionate and violent. Cliff from Undecided told
me that one of our friends at that show once got stabbed in a fight and
still won. It reminded me of my friends in Syracuse.
That night there were a few minor scuffles and I got frustrated when I
saw some jerk kick a small kid in the back. So I threw a tornado kick
through the circle pit and stared him in the eye. I thought it was kind
of funny, because even if an Asian guy pretends to know kung-fu all imaginations
run wild and screaming. The moshing stopped for a while.
That night we went to a cool vegan restaurant and I had "The Rooster".
All the vegans with us were sure that it tasted just like real chicken,
but the memory for meat must fade drastically. I was surrounded by so
many vegans during my stay in Florida that I practically became one, and
have since stayed a vegetarian. Without preaching, I'd like to say that
I feel a lot better.
The restaurant was a haven for interesting people. One guy that stood
out particularly was a very colorful fellow named "Brooklyn".
He was a really big hard-core looking dude with lots of tattoos and piercing.
He was an intense boisterous dreamer who apparently knows every famous
person that there is. I told his friends that I'd thank him if I ever
won a big music award and they thought he might have a stroke. He works
at The Gap helping preppy kids pick out sweaters in fear for their lives.
Tuesday of that week - Melbourne, FL - Some show at
A few days later Alex got me a spot on a show in Melbourne,
FL. We made the trek up north a couple of hours to a classic beach side
resort. This was easily one of the weirdest shows I've ever played. At
some point in the evening I stood in the middle of the open air venue
and rotated my head for a witness of the strange juxtapositioning of the
elements in play. In one view there was a beautiful full moon hanging
over the Atlantic ocean stuck with sailboats in action. When I squinted
my eyes it looked like an impressionist painting in a J.C. Penny Catalog.
As I swung around there was an equally beautiful group of street punks
sporting mohawks and metal studs. All of them were about 13 years old
and probably don't realize that their grandparents could have listened
to the Sex Pistols, but the spirit of punk lives in the middle class!
So as I kept looking around I saw little social cliques - indie kids,
punk kids, hard-core kids, kids like me who don't have a group, and a
dinner crowd sipping chardonnay and nibbling on French biscuits. All the
elements for a real rockin good time! The sound was bad, the promoter
was really nice, and the whole thing was catered by waiters in white suits.
The rest of the week was more X-BOX! I vegetated.
Later that week - Some place in Fl - Cool show!
I rarely get to just attend a concert that I'm not playing at, but Alex
took me to see Further Seems Forever, Rocking Horse Winner, Onelinedrawing,
and another band that I can't remember (sorry). What an amazing lineup!
It was on the second floor of a community hall with a broken air conditioner.
The temperature near the stage must have reached about 120 degrees! Jason,
the new singer of FSF, passed out at the end of the show and threw-up
behind the stage. Rock and Roll! Jonah (Onelinedrawing) was my main interest
that night. This was my 4th time seeing him play and I was very curious
to see if he could pull it off again. Not that I didn't think he could
do it but I found it hard to believe that anyone could perform at that
level every night with consistency. To my amazement the show was incredible
again. What an inspiration! Both Ben and I will readily admit that if
it wasn't for Jonah we wouldn't have had the guts to go out and perform
solo. Thanks Jonah.
Sunday of that week - Miami, FL - Some Bar in the Ghetto
I hooked back up for another show with CTS in Miami. It wasn't well attended
but the friends I had made in Boca came down, including Merin, Alex, xWessx
(x-drummer for Walls of Jerico who incidentally almost became the drummer
for Jupiter Sunrise, that's a long story in itself. Great guy), Jessica
(A friend of Alex who came down to visit from OH, who incidentally will
be doings shows for JS in OH. Thank you), members of Rocking Horse Winner
(who I'd love to tour with), Incredible Weirdo, and more. All really special
people who listened very intently to my show and I'm grateful for that.
I really love those people. They had a little mini party for me with a
cake before I left the next day.
I miss them.
An interesting stop - New Orleans, LA
I left Florida in a similar manner in which I arrived. Inconspicuous,
alone, but this time without the smiles. I guess it didn't take me very
long to realize that I'd rather have my friends and family than freedom
by myself. So I drove endlessly for the next two days on my way to California.
Florida looked bleak and flat on the way out. It was just my mood. I made
some phone calls in Alabama to my girl Heather who was living with her
sister in LA. I was really ready to see my loved ones again.
Before I get into the New Orleans story I want to make
mention of something that has bothered my since I was a kid. Touring is
helping me to figure it out. In high school I was really unpopular (not
complaining but I have to set this up). I really wanted to be on the baseball
team and be good at sports, but I was always behind the other kids in
my physical development. Those jocks had a group or a club I wanted to
be part of. I tried really hard despite the whispers and looks. I failed.
I was not accepted. Then years later I found myself struggling to become
known in the indie music scene. And it's the same thing. My music isn't
hard-core or punk or cool. It's just what I do and I feel like an outsider
again. In my
perfect world the underground would be a place for all types of new music
to be heard. The underground is full
of passionate intense people and that's why I want them. But I'm afraid
it's becoming just a popularity contest.
I'm afraid they aren't listening anymore.
So I arrived in New Orleans smack in the middle of Mardi
Gras on one of the coldest days you'll ever feel in the south. It hovered
just above freezing that night. Small crowds of college kids shivered
together covering their disappointment with false smiles and "w-wow,
w-w-what a p-p-party, eh?" It was fascinating. The parade route was
nearly empty, so that the beads being thrown from the floats covered the
ground untouched. Several times a package of beads hit me in the head
and I realized that the bored workers were playing target practice. Bourbon
street is the center of the after-parade party and it still has all the
old French architecture - wrought iron, balconies, small white washed
colonial structures, and years of festive behavior wear down stone curbs.
It's really a beautiful place if you look past the commercialism and decadence.
A slice of pizza is $5 and strip clubs are free. So I took pictures of
the street performers, a drummer, a jester, etc, and then walked for hours
trying to find my car. Literally hours. I walked clear around the whole
city calling Heather on my cel periodically to bide
the time. I just kept going until I finally found it.
So it was around 3am when I left New Orleans, and I headed
straight west on I-10. Near dawn I crossed the Texas border. The landscape
gradually changed from green to tan. The sunrise over the plains was beautiful,
bright, and clean over a painfully flat, vast, low horizon. Houston rose
up like a robot kingdom in the wasteland. Austin was hill country, rolling
and grassy. I stopped just outside of town to take some pictures and stretch.
I was slammed with silence. The edge of the desert was dead quiet. The
loud kind of quiet that makes city folk feel nervous that they might relax
to death. Hours of endless driving took me through all of the western
flatlands, grasslands, badlands, and wastelands. Every type of rock, lifeless,
empty, alone, so alone. There were times when there wasn't another car
or human or sign of humanity within miles. I drove 100 miles an hour,
then 10. It didn't matter. And I didn't sleep in Texas.
By the evening I slipped past El Paso into New Mexico. The lights of the
city looked like a sparkly throw rug lying at the base of mountains suspiciouly
absent of trees. The New Mexican night sky was magnified and brilliant.
It made me think and hear things I had forgotten. Complete release. There
were shadows of cacti close to the road. I couldn't see the desert but
I could feel it. Near Pheonix I decided to stop. 22 hours of straight
driving. No sleep since Alabama 36 hours ago.
In the morning I woke up blind. My contacts were so dry from not being
changed that my eyes were glued shut. I forced them out. It was several
hours before my eyes didn't burn and they could see clearly again. I showered
in a truck stop, then got a haircut and made myself pretty as I made west
one more time. By evening I saw the lights of Palm Springs which I mistook
for LA. It seemed small. I hit Orange County soon after and reunited with
Heather. We went out to dinner and for the rest of the weekend she showed
me around LA. Hollywood looked smaller than I expected as does almost
every city I go to. I was happy again. Here I was in LA. The promised
land for musicians and actors. What next?